Jujutsu Kaisen

One thing that (fighting) shounen anime can do so well is stretch a fight (or a contest) over several episodes – and Jujutsu Kaisen fits that bill for me, and yet my favourite episodes were probably the more self-contained ones.

Jujutsu Kaisen (2020)

And so the drawing together of the main cast, the investigations and especially Nanami’s episodes stood out most for me.

I loved the premise too, especially as a fan of supernatural stuff, and while the action sequences were ace, I do have a few niggles to report. While the ‘bro’ joke oscillated between amusing/overplayed/all the way back to maybe amusing again, I do find myself growing weary of a trend that seems to exist within and beyond anime: the zero progress per season.

Okay, I’m exaggerating.

But I’m referring to the huge battle at the end of every season that doesn’t come close to defeating even the first Big Bad, no matter how visceral or satisfying the actual scenes or blows themselves are. (That same Big Bad usually can’t manage to defeat newbie heroes either… but that’s a trope for another review :D).

And in a way, once you buy in to the series, that sort of thing never matters.

And in time too, I tend not to care too much, because I’m more interested in seeing the main characters grow and succeed.

And there’s a great deal of growth, usually accelerated, for the leads and in particular for Yuji. And he has that lovable goof vibe which is fun too. Actually, as the series continued it was interesting to see the writing team rope in Nobara to a similar role.

(Just quickly also, having hammer and nails as weapon caught my eye, certainly not something I see a lot of in anime).

Another double-edged blade I guess, would be Ryomen Sukuna.

I finished this season with the sense that he and Yuji did not have enough screen time together.

Of course, there needs to be stuff left over for future seasons. But still, I felt that only allowing them a few scenes together, or at least limited interaction, both weakened the central narrative (as it had to take a few long detours to introduce the wider cast) and at the same time, also heightened mystery.

Basically, I wanted more, because those scenes held the most tension for me.

But that also means that I now have something else to really look forward to – keen for another season!

4 Stars

OVA Week – Day 6: Open the Door (Tobira wo Akete)

Day 6 already!

So, if you’re new to ‘OVA Week’ here at the heap, basically speaking, I’ve got some dot points on the OVA form itself, and then the review.

Hope you enjoy these and again, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Open the Door (Tobira wo Akete) 1986

In the past, portal fantasy/isekai anime didn’t always use video games as the medium or impetus for the main characters to leave their home world, and this time around it’s more of a summoning actually… a small fact that’s probably most important toward the end of the film. 

Open the Door is a full-length release but it doesn’t quite evoke the word ‘epic’, despite having the lead characters raise an army and despite including both a fair bit of travel and several battles. It’s not quite as ‘fun’ as an adventure-film either.

Nor is it full of angst, precisely.

It really has a tone that I’m struggling to describe. And I don’t want to suggest that the movie comes across as being so little of any one genre or mood that it actually ends up evoking none of them, either.

Nor do I want to say that things are rushed, though the anime could have been expanded into a short series with little trouble, I reckon.

What I do think Open the Door features is an interesting combination of sword & sorcery and a mix of shoujo/josei aspects, not limited to the leads being college students.

Here’s the premise from MAL:

In modern day Tokyo, three university students, Negishi Miyako (Neko-chan), Saiki Haruka, and Yamagishi Keiichiro, have magical powers that make them feel like outcasts. They come together one night and are transported to another world. They open a massive door and Neko finds that she is the Princess Neryulla, who must defeat the evil Duran III to free her people.

Having the main characters be university-aged seems like a hallmark of some older anime, and it was nice to see Neko operate in a pretty confident and competent manner, compared to her potentially being clumsy or merely a damsel, while at the same the story doesn’t show her as a rash hot-head either.

Especially welcome perhaps, considering how easily she takes to her new role of saviour in an unfamiliar world – or also how skillfully she deals with the advances of Saiki the ‘player’.

But before I get to some spoilers, I want to cover some dot-points:

  • Of the supporting cast, coming in closer to the ‘hot-head’ archetype is Dimida, who was definitely one of my favs
  • As was shapeshifter Keiichiro, who had a fun Wizard of Oz kinda design, too
  • I did enjoy the vague ‘He-Man’ feel to some designs of the supporting cast
  • Around the mid-point or so, there’s a reflection scene where Neko is smoking a cigarette in the fantasy world, and for me it worked really well to remind us that she’s from our world. Not a huge thing, just something effective that I liked
  • And finally, I have to mention that there is an actual pillow fight in this film – I reckon it’s meant to function as a ‘girls-bonding’ moment but it’s possibly just an excuse to animate feathers 😀

All right, time for a spoiler before I wrap up this review.

I mentioned the summoning aspect to Tobira wo Akete earlier, which is sort of how Neko and co all end up in the fantasy world.

This is revealed during the villain’s monologue, where the audience also learns the motivation for his action – and it’s basically boredom. Which just seems a little flat to me – I mean, “I was so bored that I tried to start a new war” doesn’t really impress 😀

More, it doesn’t make too much sense – for instance, if Duran was so hard-up for war and death, he could have gone around colonising other parts of his world, could have started plenty of conflicts at home, instead of spending 500 years searching for a physic girl from another world to use as a pawn.

… but all that aside, I still enjoyed this OVA/feature film and while the budget/animation isn’t on the scale or quality of a similar text (in terms of genre and era), like say Arion, it’s still above plenty of average TV series from the decade in terms of visuals.

Maybe not a gripping storyline, but the characters stood out enough for me to say I enjoyed it and most fantasy fans probably would too, along with fans of the era and overall 1980s aesthetic.

3.5 Stars

OVA Week – Day 4: Sorcery in the Big City (Itazura Majo to Nemuranai Machi)

OVA Week continues!

You can find a quick overview on the form itself below, then the actual review. (This time, the review is actually for an ONA).

Hope you enjoy these posts and as before, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Sorcery in the Big City (Itazura Majo to Nemuranai Machi) 2017

I do wish Sorcery in the Big City had been a bit longer – it was fun and had some nice, flashy action sequences to perhaps contrast with the moe elements. When I think back on it, I mostly remember it as a feel-good short film that focuses on Christmas and a little on family.

Released back in December of 2017, it’s an ONA from Sanzigen with nice CGI, some at times dazzling lighting and fun character and costume designs too. 

One thing I liked a lot was the fact that while main character Akari has lost her teddy bear, she doesn’t precisely end up being the one to find and rescue the toy (Apple), it ends up being the other way around, for the most part. 

Connected to the above, I also found it nice to see a little tweak on the “bringing toys to life at Christmas” choice, since in this case, that’s the actual source of danger.

I do wonder whether Akari’s partner drifts in and out of racial stereotype territory – as does our MC, perhaps. I hope I’m off-base, but I dunno. It’s also probably not too hard to see lazy cliches about police mixed in with some copaganda elements too. It’s actually a really odd mix.

Elsewhere, the scene-setting is really detailed – if a little quiet at times, but I suppose that’s part of the Christmas fantasy.

I also wanted a little more screen time for the true villain, and also probably more on the post-climax wrap up… but as I mentioned before, it’s a short and the focus on being uplifting was always meant to come first.

3 Stars

OVA Week – Day 3: Twilight of the Dark Master (Shihaisha no Tasogare)

Four more days of OVA reviews after this one!

There’s a brief overview on the form itself below, before I get to the actual review.

I hope you enjoy these and as I mentioned before, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Twilight of the Dark Master (Shihaisha no Tasogare)

Twilight of the Dark Master is a pretty dark OVA released in 1997 US / 1998 JPN, at a time some years after the peak of the direct-to-video format.

Even so, it’s mostly exactly what you might expect from an OVA – extra detail in general, extra detail on the violence and nudity, with some of it gratuitous but here, not exactly falling into the realm of modern shock-horror either.

And there is a story. And some great animation and use of colour and light at times too – not just via the general high-level from many OVAs, but there was one sequence in particular that was pretty compelling. Not because it was the greatest thing in the world, but because it was just really effective.

I think it’s the mix of flicker, of slow-motion, and the use of muted and also selective colour, that brought things together – I wonder how much of it was computer-assisted via layering, possibly? Seems like a lot of work to get everything in place.

The story follows the conventions of a revenge* thriller mixed in with some procedural, magic, horror and cyberpunk aspects too, and has at least a couple of surprises to go with the wide range of genres.

Now, that might sound like a lot going on, and it is, but I enjoyed the mix.

Today, director Akiyuki Shinbo would probably be best known for March Comes In like a Lion. Obviously, something such as a previous work by Akiyuki, The SoulTaker, is a far closer comparison in terms of content, when it comes to Twilight of the Dark Master.

In the end, I’m not sure how much of the visuals I can attribute to Akiyuki Shinbo or storyboard artists, verses manga artist Saki Okuse, but from the composition to lighting to framing, it’s definitely all well-above average for me.

So too, some of the character designs, which have both detail and some range. (Again, I mention this to contrast what seems like one of my more recent pet peeves – anime with characters who all look generally quite similar).

Now, this OVA is most definitely not suitable for the younger viewers out there – although, I doubt Twilight of the Dark Master is on the radar for that age group anyway.

(Or perhaps, on anyone’s radar for the most part).

I must note that for all the things I enjoyed about the OVA, Twilight of the Dark Master suffers a little from its reliance on low-key lighting and some pandering, but maybe more than that – as the ending just wasn’t as strong as the rest of the short film.

Ridiculously, I can’t put my finger on exactly why that is… maybe the shift in scale? It feels too sudden for me. If you’ve seen this one, that might make sense. Or maybe not!

4 Stars

OVA Week – Day 2: Scoopers

Onward – six days left of OVA reviews!

As before, I’m starting with a brief overview on the form itself, before jumping into the actual review and will follow this format for each of the seven posts.

Hope you enjoy these and as I mentioned a few posts back, I’d love to hear any suggestions you might have for future OVA-weeks 🙂


  • An animated film or series made for release on video, rather than for broadcast/theatrical screening
  • Generally, high budgets that can mean visual qualities are better than a typical television series
  • No fixed length, nor broadcast time-constraints when it comes to storytelling
  • To some extent, created outside regulation – and so they have a reputation for ‘anything goes’ when it comes to restricted content
  • Often (but certainly not always) based on original scripts, rather than being adaptations
  • Long wait times between episodes/installments for some OVAs
  • First OVA to be described as such was 1983’s Dallos from Mamoru Oshii
  • The ONA (Original Net Animation) is an obvious more modern equivalent

Scoopers (1987)

Monkey Punch obviously created more than his Lupin stories, though I think in works like Scoopers (or Cinderella Boy for another example), some similarities in design and tone are front-and-centre.

To an extent, there’s even a little of a cyberpunk-Lupin feel to this short film. Maybe even a touch of Jurassic Park – well, if only in terms of a key setting, perhaps. But I’m jumping around a bit, so here’s a brief note on the plot instead:

A plucky reporter and her android cameraman/bodyguard try to save the world from a madman with vast, vast technological resources. Simple enough, right? Again, not a problem for me.

Leads Yoko & Beat make a good pair and their adversary Mr X is certainly doing his best to be the ‘menacing gentleman’ type but for me, his wide variety of henchmen actually do better.

Admittedly, Mr X really does throw all kinds of stumbling blocks the way of the heroes, from helicopters, androids and hallucinations, Greek gods/mythical creatures and evil super computers too. And while a sense of fun holds everything together, I think the mix could easily irritate some viewers.

Not me however, but I will add that Yoko was, for all her toughness, prone to cries and shrieks a fair bit. It’s also unclear to my why Beat has been programmed to perform occasional acts of sexual harassment but here we are, I guess.

Is this OVA worth seeking out? Probably if you’re a big fan of Monkey Punch (or Lupin, I guess) or more likely, as I often seem to say, if you’re a fan of the era. Because it is 100% the 1980s from top to bottom!

Otherwise, Scoopers might not bring you a whole heap of enjoyment.

3 Stars

Infinity Train Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train

Infinity Train Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – The Movie: Mugen Train (2020)

After really enjoying the first season of Demon Slayer I was keen to see how the premise and characters would work under the constrictions of a film.

And there was definitely a lot I liked about the main storyline, a nice progression of obstacles for Tanjiro, some good tension (especially on the train itself), but I finished the film with two responses above all.

First, would Infinity Train have been poorer without the side plots following Zenitsu and Inosuke?

Quite clearly, some of their scenes bring brief moments of levity, but for me they didn’t offer enough overall. (However, that doesn’t mean I think that they didn’t work at all either).

Secondly, by the end, most of the drama had transformed into melodrama for me. Which in and of itself isn’t always bad thing necessarily, but I think here, with Kyōjurō and especially for his last scenes, it was all just drawn out too long.

I still enjoyed Infinity Train overall and just like during season one, the use of colour was pretty dazzling – even if the subtler moments were just as distinctive.

I reckon you should watch this (if you haven’t already, of course) before beginning the Entertainment District Arc, since there is some great follow-up in terms of Tanjiro’s emotional state, things that are mostly missing from the movie (of a necessity perhaps).

Once again, the visuals were ace – especially the final fight, but I guess I wasn’t as enthralled by the narrative and/or narrative structure.

3 Stars

Vampire in the Garden (Vanpaia in za Gāden)

You know the very-real genre known as “not-quite-tearjerker”? Yep, that one – absolutely something real that you’d find in a video store, or in the list of categories via a streaming service.

Well, Vampire in the Garden (2022) feels like it meets the criteria for the above ‘genre’ to me, since it’s quite sombre and sort of contains little in the way of hope.

(Quick warning, there are fair few spoilers below, so if you’ve been planning to watch this one day and want to avoid spoilers, please take note).

However, to some extent, the action scenes and also the defiance and determination shown by the leads (Fine and Momo) sort of cloaks what is a tragedy, but I think it’s the kind that of tragedy that telegraphs its inevitable, sad ending very clearly. You’ll most likely be able to prepare yourself, if you know this kind of story will upset you.

(For example, the berserker/suicide drug that the vampires can use never seems far from Fine’s mind, and the series is careful to remind us with close-ups etc, that it’s always an option for her).

But it’s not just the ending that is melancholy and more; there is plenty of despair and hate and war throughout, and examples to demonstrate just how hideous humanity can be. It’s a clear a parallel with real-world war and prejudice, which makes the handful of upbeat scenes almost glitter in comparison.

Part of the mood is obviously achieved via lighting – and of course, it’s about vampires and so there’s going to be a lot of shadow.

But the scenes within grand manors or military encampments are often shadowed, or chilled by all the snow, leeched of vibrancy or sick with that nuclear green. It all feels like a clear sign that points to humanity being in decline from within, something clear when we see how little music, art and joy they have – and most of all, how hard they try to stamp those things out when they are found within the vampire’s culture.

On the other hand, the human race is caught within a war of survival.

Again, the themes are clear and heartfelt – something I certainly don’t begrudge the anime for in any way. War strips away the things worth living for, and Momo and Fine turn their backs on that during their search for a promised land of harmony. Well, both of them prior to the first episode – and Fine a long time prior.

I will note that the age-gap is undeniably suspect, even before the indeterminate age of vampire Fine. It’s a pretty common vampire trope, I guess – so perhaps no surprise there.

Both leads remained engaging for me, in part because they were each given time to open up, and I definitely wanted them to find what they were seeking. Despite the story giving me many reasons believe that they actually had no chance of success, I was still a bit surprised by how close the narrative permitted them to come to happiness.

A member of the supporting cast caught my eye too – Kubo and his samurai sword. Had he played a bigger role, I’d have been interested to see more of his back-story, but as things stand I felt like I was provided enough to support his motivation. (There was also enough time to see a bit more on other side characters too, which was nice).

In terms of time, I thought I should note that Vampire in the Garden felt longer than its 2-and-a-bit-hours to me, probably due to being chopped up into five episodes.

Visually, it seems clear that Wit Studio have unleashed a torrent of stunning settings and backdrops, and elsewhere I have no complaints*, but Kazushi Fujii and Satoshi Takabatake (I believe it was) really captivated me with so much striking scenery. I kept watching at least in part to see yet another awesome background.

So, at long last – is this anime for you?

Maybe if you like bat-style vampires – or far more importantly, love stories that are bittersweet at best. And if so, then this should be pretty pleasing overall. If you prefer more conventional noble-vampire/thrall plots, or vampire-hunting stories, then I don’t think Vampire in the Garden will quite do the trick.

4 Stars

*Well, maybe the jeep’s landing and some general “invincible heroes” stuff, but it wasn’t enough to ruin anything for me.

Strait Jacket (Sutoreito Jaketto)

This was a great taste of action-science fiction from an era of anime that’s sort of long gone now. Well, if you consider 15 years a long time ago, and probably it is – in terms of trends and audience tastes, perhaps.

But that’s not what’s important here.

Instead, here’s little on the premise/plot, before I focus on other things:

Strait Jacket is set an alternate history where magic was proven to exist and spread throughout all facets of society and changed the social and technological development of the world. Rayotte Steinberg, a lone wolf ‘tactical sorcerist’, fights against monsters while wearing a ‘mold’, the straight jacket that keeps him human. (Adapted from Wiki/MAL)

All classic stuff that will usually catch my attention, since I’m pretty easy to please.

Strait Jacket (Sutoreito Jaketto) 2007

However, I will say that events in the Strait Jacket OVAs/film are clearly part of a wider story (it’s adapted from a light novel series), giving me the sense that there is much more to learn about the characters, if only viewers had been given a chance to do so – say, via a full series.

So maybe Strait Jacket was too short but that might be exactly what you’re looking for, and in addition, there are resolutions to a few of the problems the characters face, one of which is major enough to provide an actual ending.

If I was going to continue grumbling here, I guess I felt that the ending itself was a little less impactful than maybe it could have been… perhaps.

I’m more confident noting that a fair amount of the magic/technology as it was used in the film could have used extra grounding.

Actually, now that I’ve said that there is one more thing – the (lesser) antagonists were not as compelling as the heroes for me. That’s at least in part due to the running time of the anime, again I’d say it’s because there wasn’t enough space to expand things, and obviously the light novel series has the luxury of an extended narrative to fix that issue.

And so, now that it turns out that I’ve spent most of the review quibbling over minor flaws, I should finally go over what I really enjoyed – and below, you’ll see ‘4 Stars’, so I clearly liked Strait Jacket a fair bit.

For one, I did enjoy the characters (especially Inspector Simmons). Some of the conflicts faced by the supporting cast also worked as a nice contract to the more stable or at least hidden past that existed between lead Reiott and his mysterious sidekick, Kapel.

Throughout, the use of colour and lighting stood out for me – though I’ll spare you any rhapsodising and just note that some of the images throughout show some of those aspects I enjoyed.

Straight Jacket features some pretty big action sequences and ace mechanical and creature design also – as an example, the plucked/roast chicken shape, rather than being too comical, remained unnerving here:

It was interesting to see the death of a supporting character actually occur ‘off-screen’, since it really worked to drive home the ‘hero-wasn’t-there’ guilt-motivator for events in the final stages of the story.

At other times, there’s a bit more blood and gore than perhaps you’d see on a TV broadcoast anime, so take note if that’s not your thing.

I finished the OVAs pretty interested in the series, keen for more info on the heroes… but that probably won’t happen in a hurry, knowing my disinclination to follow-up on light novels/manga etc, so I’ll probably just have to be happy with what I’ve got on DVD 😀

4 Stars

And before I finish, I want to thank Anime Hanabi for the recommendation – I might not have watched this without your post 🙂

Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul (Fukaki Tamashii no Reimei)

The Dawn of the Deep Soul film continues with the ‘let’s do unspeakably cruel things to cute kids’ approach that featured in the first season of the anime.

Made in Abyss: Dawn of the Deep Soul (Fukaki Tamashii no Reimei) 2020

Now, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the movie – that would be a lie, but some scenes will probably be hard work for most viewers, so take note if you know you’re not up for that sort of thing right now (or ever).

To contrast all that was harrowing about the movie, I’ll say that the amazing perseverance of the kids who keep fighting, no matter what, ends up being uplifting.

Although, perhaps what I enjoyed most about the film was the expansion of the world featured in Made in Abyss, learning more specifics around its often twisted workings.

Another highlight for me was the first fight scene between Bondrewd and the kids – put me on the roller-coaster a bit, because I was well-aware that it was far too early in the film for a resolution.

I don’t really have much in the way of criticism, save for something that’s relatively unfair – which is that the sense of travel and encountering new wonders and horrors is somewhat reduced here. And of course – it’s one film, not one season, and one film focused on a very specific location, Bondrewd’s fortress of horrors.

And I’m not sure this is a criticism precisely, but there are times when it’s clear how the narrative is going to traumatise Riko and co, and even the seemingly more stalwart Nanachi, and so some scenes may or may not land as hard as intended.

Again, whether you experience something similar or are even bothered by it is probably not going to be a big issue, if at all. Sometimes anticipation heightens the suffering too, lol.

Other than that, the film was often harrowing, occasionally uplifting, and pretty much every minute of it compelling.

(And also – before season 2 happens during the ‘summer’ of 2022, I reckon this film is a must if you’re planning to keep watching the Made in Abyss series).

4 Stars

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) 1989 [Collaboration with Scott from Mechanical Anime Reviews]

it’s been a little while since I hosted a collaboration here, so I was really happy that Scott was up for working with me on Kiki’s Delivery Service – the famous Studio Ghibli adaptation of Eiko Kadono’s book (and top-grossing film in Japan for 1989).

If you’ve not had the chance to see this film, I hope we’re able to make you at the very least, curious enough to check it out!

Kiki’s Delivery Service (Majo no Takkyūbin) 1989

Ashley: Hey! Excited to start this collab, especially as it had definitely been a while since I’d seen Kiki’s Delivery Service and last time we worked together was on a mecha show, so this should be a fun contrast. 

How long has it been for you? I wondered if you noticed different things about the movie this time around?

Scott: Hey Ashley! I’m excited too. It’s been way too long since the last time and I think this one will be a fun one to discuss.

Honestly, it’s been way too long for me. Over a decade and half I think. Ever since my high school marching band days when we watched films on these nice buses that have tv screens that we could watch movies from. Kiki was a staple for that.

To be honest, I can’t say that I really noticed anything particularly different. The screen I watched it on was small and with the length of time, it’s like watching Kiki’s Delivery Service for the first time.

How about you?

A: Cool, what a contrast from the bus tv and environment to a more controlled one at home 🙂

It’s been a few years for me and this time around I was reminded just how key Joe Hisaishi’s music is to the overall Studio Ghibli feel for me, how it really adds to the whimsy (or the drama in some of the flying scenes) but also the scene-setting. 

I had also forgotten that Jiji is voiced by Rei Sakuma and her voice (and characterization) is obviously quite different to Phil Hartman’s, whom I had become really accustomed to. It’s an interesting contrast, especially in terms of their respective personalities in the original vs the dub – Hartman’s Jiji has a fair bit of that classic Disney sidekick comic-relief that’s not present in the Japanese release. I definitely love his performance but it was fun to see another side to Jiji.

S: Oh yeah, I agree with that feeling. The big question I have is if Joe Hisaishi didn’t do the OST for it, is it really a Ghibli film? I mean probably, but it wouldn’t feel the same.

I feel like there are always some localization changes like that in English versions of Ghibli films. Like, Princess Mononoke had a prologue narration while the Japanese version didn’t or how Spirited Away had San say “oh, it’s a bathhouse”, because that’s not a thing in the United States. So I suppose that going with that choice made sense for this film for western audiences.

So this film. Kiki is quite a film isn’t it?

A: Yes! I love coming of age films and so Kiki… automatically ticks a lot of boxes for me. 

I also really like how much dramatic tension there is in seemingly small stakes, such as those that come from delivering items, retrieving items or making the switch with Jiji etc, which is contrasted with the emotional beats of her quest for acceptance, self-discovery and of course, the bigger, action-based stuff in the latter half of the film.

S: I love them too, honestly. A well done coming of age story are some of my favorite things. So relatable and can be applied to so many scenarios to keep it fresh and interesting.

As for digging into details, there are so many of them in the story that just add so much extra fluff into it for me too. So many good little bits of micro attention that just makes the film a lot better then the viewer would first expect. I feel like that coincides with Kiki establishing herself because every moment is a little bit of tension.

A: I feel the same with those small details, like the work on the pastries or the slow warming of Osono’s Husband toward Kiki, or the stunning backgrounds, especially when it comes to the buildings. I feel like it’d be easy to do a whole post just on the scenery 😀

If you had to pick a high point for that tension around Kiki’s growth, what would it be do you reckon?

S: Exactly and there are just so many little bits like that to make the world feel so organic. Just like the bus driver given the time to actually close the door because he drives off. So many small things like that which add up and make the experience just so grounded.

Oh, the moment of tension? I feel like its centered around Kiki’s relationship with Tombo hits a whole point. Probably where she questions her magic. Very much where all the tension in the staying in that city suddenly explodes. I could be wrong about that though…

A: Same again! In fact, the questioning of her magic always made me a bit sad. The crushing, somewhat comparatively dull adult world pushing its way in? 

Maybe that’s a little negative of me – Kiki certainly finds plenty of fulfillment doing things adults do as well. Her sense of purpose and confidence from her independence, which is earned through all those non-magical things.

S: Isn’t questioning her magic so relatable though? She’s a little too early in her own life to think that was though. Especially comparing herself to her mom. Maybe she is growing up too fast by doing the usual witch tradition.

Yeah, I think her finding out she doesn’t need her magic to be around people or just live is a good way to carry this story. I think that her magic coming back from that understanding feels completely natural because of it.

A: It really is, definitely – and it suits the overall uplifting tone of the film too, huh?

So before we finish, I wanted to ask what or whether anything didn’t work so well for you?

S: I feel boring in saying in saying that I don’t have much against it? In some cases I just felt a bit rushed at some times? Some scenes didn’t have as much room to breathe as they could? That’s about it for me.

I really don’t have much to say against it. What about you?

A: For me I thought I was going to say that the film was a touch long… and yet, is that even true? Do I even have any actual criticisms – I don’t think I do, either 😀

It really feels like the Studio Ghibli team firing on all cylinders, creating a really fantastic adaptation, and visually, nailing the match of theme to visuals, of character to expression etc. So I’m like you – loved it, can’t really find anything to complain about!

And finally, huge thanks to Scott for joining me for another collaboration 🙂